Winnipeggers mixed about province’s plan to expand liquor sales

Manitoba PCs reviving plans for a pilot project that could see liquor sold in more places, like corner stores or grocery stores. Mike Albanese has more.

By Mike Albanese

The Manitoba government is once again proposing changes that would see liquor sold in a variety of retail outlets – potentially including grocery or corner stores.

CityNews spoke to Winnipeggers to find out how they feel about the proposed plan. The responses were mixed.

BACKGROUND: Manitoba government revives plan to test liquor sales in more retail outlets

Downtown Family Foods co-owner Kevin Schmidt says broadening store selection could increase their customer base.

“They will explore other things those businesses may have that they didn’t know they carried,” said Schmidt. “I think it’s a good option for businesses, small businesses that could do it.”

First proposed last spring, the bill failed to get approved by the legislature before fall break.

Andrew Smith, the minister for liquor and lotteries, says he hopes the reintroduced bill will become law before the provincial election slated for Oct. 3.

The NDP’s Lisa Naylor says the bill would make liquor too available and would allow it to be sold near schools at corner stores.

Critics have been quick to point out safety concerns, saying it’s a dangerous decision and that convenience should not outweigh risk.

“I’m worried about resurgence of theft and the things that were going on in the liquor stores,” one resident told CityNews.

“It’s probably more likely that somebody would steal from a corner store but aside from that I’m not necessarily opposed to it being sold in other places,” said another. “Other provinces do it and it seems to be fine.”

“I think it’s a great thing that you can pick up a bottle of wine while you’re shopping for groceries but there is the worry of theft and violence like before – that would be my greatest concern,” added a third.

Between September and October of 2019, Manitoba Liquor and Lotteries says they had 3,501 thefts. That prompted additional security measures like an I.D. check at the front door. During that same stretch in 2021, thefts dropped to 128.

‘New world of security measures’

Schmidt says if the bill passes, he’d like to see help with security at grocery stores and corner stores alike.

“How do we set it up in our store? Is it something we have on the floor for people to view? Do we have to have it locked up so staff have to help people with it? Will we need a security person on site now for the length of time the store is open during the day?

“There are so many more costs and concerns, especially with our location that we’d have to consider before bringing something like that in.

“It brings in a whole new world of security measures that we don’t currently have in place just to protect those items.”


Currently, Manitoba’s liquor system is a mixture of private and government-run stores that doesn’t include outlets such as corner stores.

Government liquor stores sell a full array of alcohol products, while private stand-alone beer vendors and wine stores in most urban areas offer a limited range of products. There are private vendors in many rural communities that offer a full range.

“For you to see your parents pick up booze during a regular shopping day – weekends especially – that shouldn’t be allowed,” one Winnipegger told CityNews.

“It should not be scattered all over the place – only particular sellers and areas,” said another one.

—With files from The Canadian Press

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